I had just (narrowly) survived what I described to my husband as the most infuriating grocery shopping trip of my life. My three- and four-year-olds touched at least 3,567,492 items in the supermarket. Plastic-wrapped mushrooms were poked, signage was damaged, candy bars were fondled, and bags of rice were shaken. To the other shoppers, I must’ve appeared as a harried harpy incessantly reeling my little monkeys in. “Get down.” “Don’t touch.” “Get off.” “Come back.”
Groceries and children safely stowed in the minivan, we set off for home. The one-hit-wonders station played “Happy Days,” and I bopped along to the music. (Did you know it was a full song and not just the musical accompaniment to the TV show’s title sequence? Me either.)
Then there was the thud to the right front fender. I glimpsed a mottled brown creature being flung to the side of the road. Ugh. A groundhog? A rabbit? Uncertain, I found a place to turn around and doubled back. Though I’m not a hundred percent certain, I believe I hit a long-haired cat.
I may have been going a little over the speed limit on the two-lane road, but with no berm and only high grass lining the side of the road, I doubt I had any chance of avoiding the animal even below the posted speed limit.
I felt sick. A cat. I’m not a cat person, but still.
Homes along this road are sparse and set back from the road. It could have been a feral cat. Maybe a barn cat. There’s not even a safe place to pull over and examine the animal to see if, however unlikely, it had a collar or tag.
After I got home and unloaded all the groceries, a glance at my driveway reminded me what had occurred immediately before we left for our grocery trip.
The little kids often head out into the fenced-in yard ahead of me while I put on shoes, gather my phone, keys, purse, etc. I knew they had stepped outside ahead of me, but when I walked out the door, I spied the gate at the end of the yard propped open with a squirt gun.
My four-year-old, who I’d known had been fiddling with the child-safe locks in recent days, had finally mastered opening the gates. My preschoolers were standing where the driveway meets the road, tucked behind the minivan. Right where cars often zip down the gentle slope descending from the development behind us.
And all afternoon, I heard the thud of that cat in my mind’s ear. Over and over. Only instead of the victim being a mottled brown creature, it was my son (the younger and more impulsive of my two youngest children). I replayed the image of my precious three-year-old boy peeking around the mini-van. My sweet, greeting-card grabbing, meat-package poking little man.
I’m grateful for the reminder to treasure each moment. Treasure each loved one. On Mother’s Day and every day. And to doubly secure the gates with lock and key.
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